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'House of the Dragon' S1E1 'The Heirs of the Dragon' review
HBO

Television

‘House of the Dragon’ S1E1 ‘The Heirs of the Dragon’ review

‘House of the Dragon’ kicks things off with a show that feels familiar with something new to say.

HBO’s much anticipated House of the Dragon premieres this Sunday at 9 p.m. EST with audiences likely as nervous as they are excited. Given the response we all had to how Game of Thrones ended, there are a lot of expectations for House of the Dragon to learn from its predecessor’s mistakes and right the ship. Set 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen, the show aims to reveal how order and peace were destroyed thanks to the royal House of the Dragon being its own worst enemy.

If you’re worried you’ll feel out of the loop with the show, don’t be. The first episode, titled “The Heirs of the Dragon,” efficiently sets everything up in the first fifteen minutes. That goes for the various roles that support the king and locations in the show. If you were to go in blind, the appeal is evident as it focuses on the politics of another era that happens to have dragons in a land where magic is slowly dying off.

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It’s relatively easy to see how the show is built on the back of Game of Thrones, so there’s a draw there as well. Through the interpersonal familial issues, the politics of the king’s courts, and how allegiance and back stabbings will dictate who dies and lives, you can see the world isn’t all that different.

At its core, this is Game of Thrones, and there are plenty of visual references calling back to what we know, but it’s also built on its melodramas as characters do their best or worst. The nods are there for fans of the original show, but it’s mostly its own beast. That being said, it can feel a little on the nose to see familiar locations as if they are in this show to validate its existence. Luckily it doesn’t constantly happen or for very long when they pop up.

That goes for the dragons, who get screen time as soon as possible. From the dragons to the beautiful bird’s eye view shots of entire cities, the show looks great. Costuming is, of course, top-notch, and familiar locations like the Iron Throne and the room it rests in look as expensive as ever.

'House of the Dragon' S1E1 'The Heirs of the Dragon' review

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

The main character right out of the gate is Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), who is intelligent, good with people, and rides dragons like a boss. She has the fire of Daenerys, but thanks to the battle for the throne being out of her reach relatively relaxed. Alcock is excellent in the role, as you’ll root for her and empathize with her position. It is made clear women cannot be rulers of the kingdom, and in the opening scene, we learn her father is made king simply to avoid war. Women rulers are a big theme in Game of Thrones and continue to be a vital element here.

King Viserys Targaryen is played well by Paddy Considine, who is kind and quite casual as kings go. His demeanor suggests he’s probably not long for ruling, especially with a hungry Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) hoping for power even though an heir to the throne is soon to be born. This first episode makes it clear not every Targaryen is angry, violent, or hungry for power. That adds a complexity to the family that’s intriguing to unpack.

That said, Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryen is as hateful and vengeful as the worst Targaryen. His jealousy is made far worse thanks to his cruelty and ambition. House of the Dragon makes it quite clear he is to be reckoned with and a threat that should give the series plenty to handle. Given the interfamilial conflict as the show’s central conflict, the general vibe feels more personal and different than the central focus of Game of Thrones.

house of the dragon 1.2

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

The scene everyone will be talking about involves the birth of the heir to the Targaryen thrown. As the mother struggles to give birth, a festival with jousting and men in armor occurs. Crosscutting between the two scenes, we see the man who wants the throne Daemon Targaryen fight while King Viserys Targaryen must watch his wife fight for her life with a baby that needs to be birthed as soon as possible. It’s masterfully shot, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, and intense. It’s a sequence that zeroes in on a moment that will change history.

If you’re tuning in for the violence and nudity, you get plenty of it. Hacked-off heads, topless women, and the like can be found in multiple scenes. In that regard, this episode is akin to Game of Thrones early days.

Possibly a wish fulfillment let down, but I was hoping for more magic or fantasy elements in this show that aren’t there. True, the show is set less than 200 years prior, which is emphatically reminding us the magic of the world has died off. It’s still early yet, but as it stands this is a show much more about various human characters deliberating on plans and concocting them.

House of the Dragon should ease nervous minds as it features incredible acting, efficient storytelling, and strong production values. From a filmmaking perspective, some sequences excite and draw the viewer in, and by the end of the episode, there is enough story here to keep you coming back for more.

'House of the Dragon' S1E1 'The Heirs of the Dragon' review
‘House of the Dragon’ S1E1 ‘The Heirs of the Dragon’ review
House of the Dragon S1E1 'The Heirs of the Dragon'
House of the Dragon should ease nervous minds as it features incredible acting, efficient storytelling, and strong production values. From a filmmaking perspective, some sequences excite and draw the viewer in, and by the end of the episode, enough story here to keep you coming back for more.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Feels like Game of Thrones in spirit, but is its own thing too
Well made from the cinematography, effects, and acting
The melodrama between these characters is easy to follow and compelling
Emma D’Arcy is fantastic throughout
At times the nods to Game of Thrones locations can feel a bit forced like you can see the showrunners going "rememeber what happens here?!"
Fantasy elements, at least in this episode, remain on setting and dragons only
9
Great

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